Food Freedom for the Holidays

mom candy

In the fitness industry Halloween means it’s time to have “the talk” about avoiding candy and creating workouts to shed those candy pounds. Then press repeat for Thanksgiving and Christmas, right into the New Year. However, guilt doesn’t work for me, body shame is not my thing. Here are a few of my tips to navigate holiday season guilt-free.

Treat Food as Just Food

A bit part of letting go of food guilt is thinking about food as just that, food. A cookie is a cookie, not a magical baked good that holds all power over you and if you eat one you’ll just tumble into the abyss of sugary snack foods never to return again. A big part of my recovery from the constant cycle of bingeing and guilting myself was to realize that a cookie is a cookie. It will be delicious and it will also still be a cookie tomorrow. I can have that cookie, I can even have one more cookie and it won’t ruin me. And I swear it won’t ruin you.

Tune In to Feelings

Listen to your body. The recommendation is “Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you are full” which is really hard to do when you have tiny people and tiny snacks all around.  The quickest things to grab are usually the “worst” things for you. But it’s OK to grab the quickest thing. It won’t always be that way and there’s enough guilt in mom life already. Removing the food-guilt just makes life easier, maybe you eat a mini Snickers now and a salad later.

When you start to listen to your body, it actually leads you in a pretty cool direction. Tune in and take a moment to listen to what foods make your body feel good, and what foods don’t. If you know this food makes you feel blah, you’ll be more likely to stay away from it- but you won’t know unless you tune in.

Focus on How Awesome Your Body Is

This was the hardest thing for me to do. I’m so used to picking my body apart and getting out of that trend was, and still is sometimes, super hard. Instead of walking by a mirror and grabbing my belly roll, wishing it was smaller, I had to make an effort to remind myself about the awesome things my body has done. Shifting the focus to positive rather than negative will help you appreciate your body more, which is awesome because it’s the only one you have.

When you love things, you take care of them.

Know Your Cycle, and Your Personality

It never fails, for a week every month, I feel huge and weird in my body. Simultaneously, I want to eat everything. It occurred to me that these feelings were all cycle related. I never tuned in enough to notice the relationship. It would also be the week that my guilt would be the worst. “I can’t control myself”, “What if this lasts forever?” All the questions… As I became more in tune with my body and my personality, I began to understand that even if I eat all the things when that week comes, it won’t last. I’ll be back to normal the next week. That’s a powerful realization. When you know yourself and your tendencies, you can actually stop to ask “Am I eating this because I really want it, or could it be that I’m thirsty or PMS-ing?” Maybe you just really want that dark chocolate Snickers and that’s OK, too.

It is a Lifestyle, Not a Quick Fix

This doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over the course of months, or years even, to change these habits. The same applies to making healthier food choices, time and patience are key. I am a work in progress. Some days I eat all the vegetables and love every second of it, some days I don’t. That’s just part of life, and enjoying it is super important to me.  If your diet is your lifestyle, you are less likely to go into holiday slumps and the January “bounce back” because holiday foods are never taboo. You were never “off wagon” and there’s nothing to “fix” come January.


Sharing a homemade cupcake with my oldest, Avery.

The goal of food freedom is to free you from the dieting cycle because there is more to fitness and wellness than the constant need to get smaller. I struggled to find my voice when it came to nutrition because I’m not “don’t eat this” kind of person. I want to put things in people’s toolbox so they are able to maintain their mental health while also striving for physical health. When you are armed with the right tools, making healthier choices becomes easier and more sustainable because you aren’t coming from a place of “all or nothing” or “I have to change this to be happy.” So, take some of the guilt out of this holiday season and approach it with body-love.


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Madison Cleckler
Madison created maternal fitness program called Madison's Momma's that features both Pre/postnatal classes and Mom & Baby classes. She earned her ACE personal training certification in 2015 and is an NASM-certified women's fitness specialist, and a JMG Fitness Consulting certified postnatal fitness specialist. With these specialties, she is on a mission to create a world of strong moms who love and appreciate the things their bodies have done and can do. You can find out more about her classes via the website in her bio.